Time spent riding bicycles with his sons was Brett Yasko’s inspiration.
Yasko, of Squirrel Hill, created a bike rack with the words, “I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike.” They are lyrics from Queen’s song “Bicycle Race,” which he and his children, Nate, 11, and Jakob, 8, sing as they ride their bikes.
Located at the corner of Penn Avenue and Seventh Street, Downtown, “For Nate & Jakob, 2015” is one of 11 new artist-designed bike racks installed by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. They mark the completion of the second phase of the public art initiative.
The first phase was introduced in August 2014 when the Trust announced a call for local artists to design bike racks for permanent use around the Cultural District. At that time, five racks were fabricated from aluminum, powder-coated stainless steel or galvanized steel in order to minimize maintenance concerns and adhere to sizing and other standards.
“I wanted to make it as big as possible,” Yasko says of his bike rack. “And I wanted words because I am a graphic designer and not necessarily an artist. This is such a great project because it takes something that is boring and makes it interesting. I wanted to make it memorable. I wanted to make it for my sons.”
Participating along with Yasko are artists Brandon Boan, David Calfo, Josh Caputo and Elise Walton, Myra Falisz, Stephen House, Alanna James, Keny Marshall, John Pena, Finnbogi Petursson and Robert Raczka.
Eric Boerer, advocacy director for Bike Pittsburgh, applauds the work of the artists. He says the city has had to catch up in terms of having enough bike racks, especially as parking meters where many riders locked their bikes were removed.
The art bike rack project is produced in collaboration with Bike Pittsburgh, the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for the city of Pittsburgh, and through the support of the Colcom Foundation.
The project budget was $125,000. Each artist received a fee of $3,000 to create a unique and functional bicycle rack. This fee covers the costs for design, fabrication, finishing and transportation of the completed bicycle rack to the installation site. The Trust is responsible for the cost of installation and naming plaques.
Something as utilitarian as a bike rack can be a piece of art, says J. Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
It also can have a special meaning for the creator.
“Time-Travelin’ Mike, 2015,” inspired by the cultural influence of pocket watches, key holes and skeleton keys, was created by Myra Falisz of Polish Hill. It is named after her late father, Mike Fallis, who died last year.
“It is to honor his creative spirit,” Falisz says. “He supported me in whatever I did. I have always been a supporter of bike lanes, which are an important part of any city.”
Bike racks can be conversation pieces, says John Pena, who incorporated “Hey!” into his “Word Balloon, 2015,” which is made of telestrut square tubing. An avid biker, he says these racks contribute to the visual aesthetic of the city while adding function.
“People who bike or drive by will stop and take a look,” Pena says. “They are part of the texture of the city, and they are also functional, so they serve two purposes.”
Moving to Pittsburgh from Illinois, Stephen House could no longer ride his bike on flat streets. He created “The Persistence of Bicycling, 2015,” a melting, clock-wheeled bike, as a nod to the effort of navigating hills, as well as to the whimsical weirdness of Salvador Dali.
“I was forced to confront a strange new creature known as a ‘hill,’ ” House says. “Suddenly, how long it takes me to bike around isn’t quite so predictable; time feels fluid, dictated by my direction of travel. For myself, having pleasantly unexpected and whimsical things to break up my routine goes a long way. Even if all it provokes is a small grin, it’s already made my day better.
“I like slipping such moments into the lives of friends, family, co-workers, so I’m rather happy to be given the chance to do so for the whole city.”
Offering guidance to a few of the artists was Colin Carrier of East Liberty, who owns London Pattern Metalworks in Homewood. He designed “Perambulating Ebb” for the inaugural phase.
“I helped them with fabrication issues and offered technical assistance on certain techniques,” Carrier says. “It’s a fun project because it gives artists an interesting opportunity to express themselves. And when you see them, you really see they all thought outside the box.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7889.